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Moore Blasts Jennings On "Deserter" Bush, Nets Undermine Charge --2/3/2004


1. Moore Blasts Jennings On "Deserter" Bush, Nets Undermine Charge
George W. Bush "AWOL" or a "deserter"? Michael Moore put the subject into play when, at a Wesley Clark rally, he previewed a Clark versus Bush race as pitting "the General versus the Deserter." At the January 22 presidential debate Peter Jennings raised the incident with Clark, describing it as "a reckless charge." On Friday night's Real Time with Bill Maher on HBO, Moore lashed back: "For Peter Jennings to say that it was 'a reckless charge,' it's reckless for Peter Jennings and ABC not to investigate this." Moore's wish became ABC's command as both ABC on Sunday, following DNC Chairman Terry McAuliffe on This Week maintaining that he's looking forward to a debate in which "John Kerry, a war hero with a chest full of medals, is standing next to George Bush, a man who was AWOL in the Alabama National Guard," and CNN on Monday, looked into the charge and found it baseless.

2. Resignation to Protest Award to Hume, But Not When Libs Honored
Which of these journalists practices "ideologically connected journalism" and does not have a "quest for objectivity"? Dan Rather, Nina Totenberg, Ken Burns, Ted Turner, Howell Raines or Brit Hume? If you answered any of the first five names, you aren't concerned about the real right-wing media bias as is Geneva Overholser, the Editor of the Des Moines Register in the early 1990s who became the Washington Post's Ombudsman in the mid-1990s and now runs the University of Missouri's Washington journalism program. She resigned from the board of the National Press Foundation, USA Today reported on Monday, to protest an upcoming award to be bestowed upon FNC's Hume.


Moore Blasts Jennings On "Deserter" Bush,
Nets Undermine Charge

President George W. Bush George W. Bush "AWOL" or a "deserter"? Michael Moore put the subject back into play when, at a Wesley Clark rally in New Hampshire, he previewed a Clark versus Bush race as pitting "the General versus the Deserter." At the January 22 Democratic presidential debate Peter Jennings raised the incident with Clark, describing it as "a reckless charge not supported by the facts." On Friday night's Real Time with Bill Maher on HBO, though he maintained he was just joking around in introducing Clark, Moore lashed back at Jennings: "For Peter Jennings to say that it was 'a reckless charge,' it's reckless for Peter Jennings and ABC not to investigate this."

Moore's wish became ABC's command as both ABC on Sunday, following DNC Chairman Terry McAuliffe on This Week maintaining that he's looking forward to a debate in which "John Kerry, a war hero with a chest full of medals, is standing next to George Bush, a man who was AWOL in the Alabama National Guard," and CNN on Monday, looked into the charge and found it baseless.

To his credit, given his personal involvement in Bill Clinton obfuscation in 1992, on This Week George Stephanopoulos challenged McAuliffe: "So how do you answer then people who would say, wait a second, Democrats all defended Bill Clinton back in 1992 despite the questions about his draft record? Isn't this hypocrisy here?"

On Sunday's World News Tonight, Geoff Morrell undermined the criminal claims made by Moore and McAuliffe about Bush supposedly not showing up for Guard duty for a few months in 1972/73, four years into a six year hitch: "In the 2000 campaign, Democrats tried to make an issue of George W. Bush's service in the National Guard, but their nominee never went so far as to accuse him of being absent without leave, a serious charge subject to court-martial. Reporters investigating Mr. Bush's military career found that, while he missed some weekends of training, he later made up for them and was eventually honorably discharged."

CNN reporter Jennifer Coggiola, on Monday's Wolf Blitzer Reports, noted that "according to military code, President Bush can't technically be labeled AWOL or a deserter. Only active-duty soldiers in the U.S. military who don't appear for 30 days qualify for that."

In the meantime, Moore isn't exactly apologetic. A letter posted last week on his Web site begins: "I would like to apologize for referring to George W. Bush as a 'deserter.' What I meant to say is that George W. Bush is a deserter, an election thief, a drunk driver, a WMD liar and a functional illiterate. And he poops his pants. In fact, he shot a man in Tucson 'just to watch him die.'" For the rest of his screed: www.michaelmoore.com

I guess that's humor in the same vein as seeing Janet Jackson's Super Bowl "wardrobe malfunction" as edgy entertainment.

Moore appeared on Bill Maher's January 30 HBO show, via satellite from Lansing, and as taken down by MRC analyst Jessica Anderson, Maher got Moore to repeat his unsubstantiated charges:

Maher: "So, you are here once again in the role of a newsmaker, which is what you seem to be, because you, I guess a couple of weeks ago, you were introducing Wesley Clark, and I know this was a joke, you were saying if he ran against Bush it would be 'the General against the Deserter.' Okay, so the media went ape shit, saying this was a reckless charge. I have been having a hard time finding whether this is a reckless charge or not. Why don't you tell me what you know are the facts. What are the facts? Because a lot of publications have come out against you and said these are not facts. What do you know is a fact about Bush's war record?"
Moore: "The facts, as reported by the Boston Globe, are that when Bush was in the Texas Air National Guard, he took a year off and went to Alabama to work on the campaign of a Republican senator that his dad wanted him to work on."
Maher: "Now, is that normal for a soldier to be able to leave his duty to work on a campaign? Is there a requisition form that any soldier can get for that?"
Moore: "I'll tell ya, if there were, I know a lot of guys in the National Guard who are over in Iraq right now, who were told that it was a six-month rotation and they've been there for over a year."
Maher: "Right."
Moore: "I wonder if any of them- [stops and chuckles as audience begins applauding]"
Maher: "So I've heard the same stories, and I have to tell you, I've referred to him as a draft dodger, which is different than a deserter -- that's a little harsher."
Moore: "Yeah, or he was AWOL."
Maher: "There is a difference, there is a big difference."
Moore: "There is a difference, yes."
Maher: "But why is it so murky to find the facts on this? This isn't something that happened in the 16th century. I mean, my God, the gospels were written 40 to 70 years after Jesus died and we got the 4-1-1 on him!"
Moore: "Exactly."
Maher: "Why can't we get a definitive version of this?"
Moore: "Because I think, with a lot of things, the press just doesn't want to do their work. I don't think it's an ideological reason. I just think that, for the most part, a lot of the media are just lazy and this would take a lot of work. Now fortunately, the Boston Globe did the investigation, they presented a lot of the facts. They found the head of the, his commander in the Air National Guard in Alabama, who said, 'I have no recollection of ever seeing him report for the entire year.' And you know, it's there, it's all there, and the press just chooses to ignore it. For Peter Jennings to say that it was 'a reckless charge,' it's reckless for Peter Jennings and ABC not to investigate this [audience applauds and cheers]."

Web site for Maher's weekly show: www.hbo.com

In Monday's CNN story, Coggiola summarized what those Boston Globe stories, cited by Moore, reported: "Here's what's known about President Bush's military service. After George W. Bush graduated from Yale in 1968, he joined the Texas National Guard as a fighter pilot and, over the next four years, based in Houston, served the equivalent of 21 months on active duty. Then, in 1972, Bush moved to Alabama to work on a Senate campaign, where he says he continued to fulfill his Guard service on the weekends.
"There have been conflicting reports about a period of time, May 1972 to April 1973. Military records obtained by The Boston Globe and other media in 2000 indicated that there was a one-year gap in his military service, that Bush did not fly at all during that time and that there are no records that he showed up for his drills required to maintain his obligation.
"Other reports went to say that, though his service days were irregular, he did accrue enough service days required for his ultimate honorable discharge. At the time, Bush's spokesperson said he made up for his missed service by performing non-flying duties."

The May 23, 2000 story by Boston Globe reporter Walter Robinson put the events in contemporaneous event context:
"The records and former Guard officials suggest that Bush's unit was lackadaisical in holding him to his commitment. Many states, Texas among them, had a record during the Vietnam War of providing a haven in the Guard for the sons of the well-connected, and a tendency to excuse shirking by those with political connections.
"Those who trained and flew with Bush, until he gave up flying in April 1972, said he was among the best pilots in the 111th Fighter-Interceptor Squadron. In the 22-month period between the end of his flight training and his move to Alabama, Bush logged numerous hours of duty, well above the minimum requirements for so-called 'weekend warriors.'
"Indeed, in the first four years of his six-year commitment, Bush spent the equivalent of 21 months on active duty, including 18 months in flight school. His Democratic opponent, Vice President Al Gore, who enlisted in the Army for two years and spent five months in Vietnam, logged only about a month more active service, since he won an early release from service."

Neither this May 23 story, or a follow-up October 31 story, is online, but those are the dates if you have access to Nexis or want to pay to see them via the Globe's archive.

The stories do not paint a flattering picture of Bush's commitment to the Guard after four years of service, but they also show how he fulfilled his commitment about a year later and was honorably discharged -- and the stories make clear that the terms "AWOL" or "deserter" to not belong in any sentence with George W. Bush.

Resignation to Protest Award to Hume,
But Not When Libs Honored

Which of these journalists practices "ideologically connected journalism" and does not have a "quest for objectivity"? Dan Rather, Nina Totenberg, Ken Burns, Ted Turner, Howell Raines or Brit Hume? If you answered any of the first five names, you aren't concerned about the real right-wing media bias as is Geneva Overholser, the Editor of the Des Moines Register in the early 1990s who became the Washington Post's Ombudsman in the mid-1990s and now runs the University of Missouri's Washington journalism program. She resigned from the board of the National Press Foundation, USA Today reported on Monday, to protest an upcoming award to be bestowed upon FNC's Hume.

As USA Today's Peter Johnson noted, "past recipients of the group's Sol Taishoff award include TV newscasters David Brinkley, Dan Rather, John Chancellor, Jane Pauley, Barbara Walters and Nina Totenberg."

(Totenberg, CyberAlert veterans will recall, made this non-ideological wish about Senator Jesse Helms on the July 8, 1995 Inside Washington: "I think he ought to be worried about what's going on in the Good Lord's mind, because if there is retributive justice, he'll get AIDS from a transfusion, or one of his grandchildren will get it.")

Other past winners of the award Hume is to receive: Cokie Roberts, Bob Schieffer, Peter Jennings, Judy Woodruff, Sam Donaldson, Dan Rather, Bernard Shaw, Ed Bradley, Ken Burns, Ted Turner and Ted Koppel. Award winners listing: www.nationalpress.org

A decade ago, Overholser actually advocated more opinionated news coverage, so even if FNC and Hume are guilty of it as she claims, why does it bother her? She probably assumed the opinion she was advocating, in this comment quoted in the November 28, 1992 edition of Editor & Publisher magazine, would be more agreeable to her left-wing sensibilities: "All too often, a story free of any taint of personal opinion is a story with all the juice sucked out. A big piece of why so much news copy today is boring as hell is this objectivity god. Keeping opinion out of the story too often means being a fancy stenographer."

An excerpt from "Brit Hume honor triggers protest Board member quits over award," a February 2 USA Today story by Peter Johnson:

....Geneva Overholser, former ombudsman of The Washington Post, has resigned from the board of the National Press Foundation because it plans to honor Fox News anchor Brit Hume at its annual dinner in Washington, D.C., on Feb. 19.

Past recipients of the group's Sol Taishoff award include TV newscasters David Brinkley, Dan Rather, John Chancellor, Jane Pauley, Barbara Walters and Nina Totenberg.

Hume, the ABC White House correspondent who joined Fox in 1996 and anchors a nightly newscast, doesn't deserve the award because he and Fox practice "ideologically connected journalism," Overholser says.

"Fox wants to do news from a certain viewpoint, but it wants to claim that it is 'fair and balanced,'" she says. "That is inaccurate and unfair to other media who engage in a quest, perhaps an imperfect quest, for objectivity."

She says groups such as the foundation, before lauding Fox or its lead news anchor, should debate whether the way Fox reports news is good for journalism....

Overholser, the former editor of The Des Moines Register who now runs the University of Missouri's Washington journalism program, quietly resigned from the board of the foundation three weeks ago.

"I would welcome a discussion about whether objectivity really exists, which media seem the least fair and balanced, whether objectivity is desirable, whether it wouldn't be better to have a more European-like model -- in which media were straightforwardly ideologically aligned," she wrote in an e-mail to fellow board members. "All of those could be helpful to American journalism.

"And I can applaud Fox for all sorts of things, but being deceptively ideologically aligned -- being hypocritical about it -- far from contributing to such discussions, makes them impossible to have. (Fox News president Roger) Ailes has constructed the perfect trap: you question him, and the finger of accusation comes back at the questioner. One can marvel at his cleverness. But one should not confer journalistic laurels upon it."

END of Excerpt

For the USA Today story in full: www.usatoday.com

The National Press Foundation's announcement that Hume would receive its "Broadcaster of the Year" honor also noted that some liberal icons will be honored, though it didn't call them liberal and honoring them apparently doesn't bother Overholser: "NYTimes.com, the online website of The New York Times, will receive the fourth annual Online Journalism Award," Sandra Mims Rowe, "editor of The Oregonian in Portland, who will receive the George Beveridge Editor of the Year Award" and "Benjamin C. Bradlee, former Executive Editor of The Washington Post and currently the paper's Editor At Large, will receive the W.M. Kiplinger Distinguished Contributions to Journalism Award." See: www.nationalpress.org

And last year Overholser didn't complain when Howell Raines, the highly-ideological Executive Editor of the New York Times, who has since resigned, received the National Press Foundation's George Beveridge Editor of the Year Award.

At the February 20, 2003 event, Raines railed against anyone who dares accuse the media of liberal bias: "Our greatest accomplishment as a profession is the development since World War II of a news reporting craft that is truly non-partisan, and non-ideological, and that strives to be independent of undue commercial or governmental influence....
"It is that legacy we must protect with our diligent stewardship. To do so means we must be aware of the energetic effort that is now underway to convince our readers that we are ideologues. It is an exercise of, in disinformation, of alarming proportions, this attempt to convince the audience of the world's most ideology-free newspapers that they're being subjected to agenda-driven news reflecting a liberal bias. I don't believe our viewers and readers will be, in the long-run, misled by those who advocate biased journalism."

For the National Press Foundation's page on the 2003 awards: www.nationalpress.org

The National Press Foundation's home page, which features an image of Peter Jennings in its banner: www.nationalpress.org

-- Brent Baker